The Chinese military likely used U.S. technology in its reported test of a hypersonic weapon earlier in the year, according to a recent letter signed by 17 Republican lawmakers.

“It is likely that U.S. software and tools contributed to the creation of this weapons system, because of our country’s permissive export controls and licensing policies with China,” the Oct. 22 letter reads.

The letter was addressed to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and signed by House Republicans who also serve on the GOP-led China Task Force.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who signed the letter, told The Epoch Times he believes that technologies developed in the United States have been used by the Chinese regime in everything from weapons tests to mass surveillance used in its repression of the Uyghur people, which the United States has recognized as a genocide.

China’s recent hypersonic missile test is part of a troubling pattern,” Gallagher said in an email. “From this test, to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to Xinjiang, U.S. technology has contributed to the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to kill Americans, conduct dangerous research, and commit genocide.”

The lawmakers called on Raimondo to immediately implement 10 policy proposals in an effort to curb the export of critical and emerging technologies from the United States to China, where they say American-developed technologies are improving the capabilities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The letter also highlighted the claimed shortcomings of attempts to pacify China through increased trade, a strategy that Raimondo has promoted as part of the administration’s approach to the regime.

“This hypersonics test and other wakeup calls must end the notion that the CCP can be constrained through commercial engagement,” the letter states.

Gallagher says the recommended policy proposals represent the bare minimum necessary to secure U.S. technologies from being used by the CCP to either attack or otherwise undermine the United States, its allies, and their interests abroad. American companies, he added, need to do more to prevent their technologies from being co-opted by the regime.

“The federal government needs to wake up to this threat and, at a minimum, impose the export controls that members of the China Task Force outlined to Secretary Raimondo this week,” Gallagher said.

“More broadly, U.S. companies need to choose: Are you with us, or are you with this genocidal communist regime?”

US Allows Restricted Technologies to be Sold to Civilian Sector

Security experts have long called for a ban on so-called “technology transfers” of key emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing between the United States and China.

The lawmakers’ letter to Raimondo raised the same concerns and warned that inaction could lead to the empowerment of what they referred to as a “genocidal, authoritarian regime.”

In theory, U.S. export control laws are in place to prevent sensitive American technology from getting into the hands of foreign actors that pose a threat to national security, including the Chinese military. But a key problem with these laws, the letter contended, was that controlled items were still allowed to be exported to China so long as the end-user of the product was within the civilian sector.

The United States has thus far refrained from seriously impeding upon such sales to the civilian sector in an effort to promote free trade and greater economic prosperity.

The letter pointed to the issue of U.S. semiconductor technology transfers to China. China lacks the means to produce advanced semiconductors on its own and its military relies on U.S. technologies to create them. In theory, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) must license military technologies for export. But because the United States allows for technologies with national security applications to be sold to the civilian sector without a license if it is deemed the company will only use them for civilian purposes, the vast majority of semiconductor technologies exports do not go through the BIS licensing process, according to the letter.

“Lax export controls make it very easy for critical technology to be sent to China directly, or through a proxy company or nation with China as the end destination,” said Casey Fleming, CEO of the strategic advisory firm Black Ops Partners.

Another example of lax export policies pointed to in the letter is that companies are easily able to dodge the effects of being blacklisted for their connections to the Chinese regime by simply changing their company name or restructuring.

“We face considerable roadblocks to limiting critical and emerging technologies due to the fragmentation of our government competing with the quest for commercial profit,” Fleming said.

“A central ‘whole-of-nation’ response with a trusted partnership between the public and private spheres must be engaged with national security as the primary driver.”

Chinese Military Has Access to Everything

That whole-of-nation response, a joining of centralized government policy and action and support from the private sector, is precisely what was sought after in the letter sent to the commerce secretary.

That’s because most of the technological support that the Chinese military derives from the United States is done so quasi-legally, through a combination of Beijing’s military-civil fusion strategy and implementation of new national security and intelligence laws, as the letter pointed out.

The CCP’s program of military-civil fusion is aimed at systematically reorganizing the Chinese science and technology sectors to ensure that new innovations simultaneously advance economic and military development.

China’s national security and intelligence laws, meanwhile, mandate that all companies doing business in mainland China or that are operated by Chinese citizens can be ordered to surrender their data to the CCP at will.

Officials and experts say that this means that any technologies developed by American companies in China could be seized by the CCP at any time. The same is true of technologies supplied to Chinese-owned companies by U.S. companies and even of the intellectual property of American companies that are funded by Chinese investors, they say.

In other words, the United States allows the sale of vital technologies to civilian sectors in China, but the PLA can force those sectors to hand over that technology at any given time.

“China’s policy of military-civil fusion is leading to the inclusions of new technologies for their military,” Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), another signatory to the letter, said in an email.

“These technologies include advanced, heat resistant technologies, Precision Navigation and Timing (PNT), and AI,” Waltz added. “Many of these technologies have been stolen from the United States and other western countries.”

Given the nature of the CCP’s national security laws, Waltz said that he believed Raimondo’s efforts to increase trade with China were directly hampering U.S. national security efforts by funneling American resources to the CCP and PLA.

“Our trade deficit sits at around $400 billion and [is] flowing directly into China’s manufacturing base, fueling their military expansion, and creating global dependencies through their Belt and Road Initiative,” Waltz said.

“The United States must take a whole-of-government approach to confronting the existential threat coming from the CCP.”

To that end, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) launched a campaign on Oct. 22 to warn and instruct U.S. organizations engaged in critical and emerging technologies about the dangers posed by foreign states’ counterintelligence operations, and advised that the CCP was actively leveraging technologies gleaned from U.S. companies for its own ends.

“There are multiple examples in which technology, data, talent and intellectual capital from these emerging U.S. technology sectors have been acquired by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government and put to use in fulfilling the PRC’s national and geopolitical goals,” Dean Boyd, chief communications executive for the NCSC, said in an email.

Such an effort appears to fall far short of the changes desired by the House Republicans’ China Task Force, however.

For now, Fleming said that the United States’ lax export controls would continue to provide strategic advantages to the Chinese regime and its weapons development efforts until the time came that the administration accepted it was engaged in an undeclared war with China.

“We are in a true wartime scenario, with unrestricted hybrid warfare waged by the CCP using many tactics and methods short of conventional war to weaken and destroy freedom and democracy worldwide,” Fleming said.

“U.S. leadership will understand the immediate need for a full technology lockdown when the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy to destroy democracy worldwide is accurately considered.”

Commerce Department officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke is a freelance reporter covering China-related issues with a focus on defense and security. He holds a MA in military history from Norwich University and authors the newsletter Quixote Hyperdrive.

October 26, 2021 9:10 pm

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